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In brief | Big Island & State | 3-27-14

Updated: 
March 28, 2014 - 12:05am

Researchers conduct cetacean forage survey off Kona Coast

Researchers aboard the NOAA ship Oscar Elton Sette are conducting a cetacean forage survey in the waters around the Kona Integrated Ecosystem Assessment region off the Big Island’s western coast, according to the NOAA Pacific Islands Science Center’s blog.

The ship is a research base for a team of the center’s scientists who are working in collaboration with colleagues from the Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research at the University of Hawaii, Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology, UH-Manoa’s Department of Oceanography and Marine Biology Program, Monterey Bay Aquarium, and the NOAA Teacher at Sea program.

This research expedition began March 17, and is scheduled to take 12 days.

The goal is “to better understand the dynamic of this unique ecosystem” via oceanographic and active acoustic surveys. The team will also investigate a deep nearshore hot spot for foraging by whales and dolphins and connections to the large cephalopods — octopus and squid — known to inhabit this region.

For more information visit pifscblog.wordpress.com.

No plans for wolves on the Big Island

The Department of Land and Natural Resources is not planning to introduce wolves to Hawaii Island, a spokeswoman said Thursday.

West Hawaii Today received calls this week questioning whether the predators would be brought here to combat the recently established axis deer population.

“The Department does not condone or plan to introduce wolves here,” spokeswoman Deborah Ward said.

The rumors about wolves may have originated from a post on freerepublic.com, self-described as “The Premier Conservative Site” online. A poster there in January claimed DLNR was going to introduce as many as 150 gray wolves in Kohala. The post is tagged with the keywords “fake,” “hoax” and “joke.”

Unemployment rate holds steady

The Big Island’s 6.1 percent unemployment rate held steady in February, according to the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations.

Hawaii County’s unemployment rate remained at 6.1 percent in February, unchanged from January, according to the department, which noted unemployment in February 2013 at 7 percent. The island continues to hold the highest unemployment rate among Hawaii’s four counties.

Statewide, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate also held steady at 4.6 percent in February, unchanged January and down slightly from 4.7 percent in December, according to the department. Unemployment statewide in February 2013 was 4.9 percent.

Nationwide, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 6.7 percent in February, up from 6.6 percent in January, according to the department. The rate is down from 7.7 percent in February 2013.

In Hawaii, some 29,900 people remained unemployed and 626,400 held jobs in February, according to the department. That’s an improvement from 30,250 people who were unemployed and 625,650 who held jobs in January.

Hawaii Island’s work force in February, the most recent data available, consisted of 81,500 people of whom 76,500 held jobs, according to preliminary statistics kept by the state.

Police seek missing Hilo teen

Hawaii Island police are searching for a 17-year-old girl who was reported missing. Ululihi Watson-Hamilton was last seen at her Hilo home January 14.

She is described as 5 feet 2 inches tall, weighing 150 pounds with brown eyes and brown hair.

Anyone with information on her whereabouts should call the Police Department’s nonemergency line at 935-3311.

Those who prefer to remain anonymous may call Crime Stoppers at 961-8300 and may be eligible for a reward of up to $1,000. Crime Stoppers is a volunteer program run by ordinary citizens who want to keep their community safe. Crime Stoppers doesn’t record calls or subscribe to caller ID. All Crime Stoppers information is kept confidential.

Hirono named subcommittee chair

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, was named the chairwoman of the Senate’s Oversight, Federal Rights and Agency Action Committee Thursday.

The subcommittee was created at the beginning of the 113th Congress to provide oversight and review of agency rule making and agency action. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., who currently chairs the subcommittee, is stepping down to take over a gavel on another committee. Hirono, who joined the Judiciary Committee at the beginning of the 113th Congress and has been a leader on a range of issues including immigration and sentencing reform, takes over April 1.

Vote for Hawaii’s largest coconut palm

American Forests’ Big Tree Madness pits the biggest of the big again each other in a three-week competition to determine who will be crowned this year’s Ultimate Big Tree, according to the state Department of Land and Natural Resources.

“Coco,” a towering 112-foot-tall coconut palm at the Hawea Heiau complex in Hawaii Kai on Oahu, is already on the National Register of Big Trees and in this year’s contest. It is up against Utah’s “Rockin” Rocky Mountain jupiter in game 10.

The public can vote for “Coco” today at facebook.com/americanforests.

PTA open for turkey hunting this weekend

Army officials are opening the Keamuku training area for shotgun or bow bearded turkey, or gobbler, hunting, and training areas 1 to 4 for bow mammal hunting from 5 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

No shotgun slugs are permitted.

Hunters enter and exit the Keamuku training area through gates 2 and 7 on old Saddle Road and through gates 11 and 14 on Highway 190. Parking is accessible in the designated area by mile markers 49 and 50. No parking is allowed on the shoulders of the highways. Hunting areas will be monitored by federal and local law enforcement agencies.

Hunters enter and exit training areas 1 to 4 through gates 1 to 10 on east Saddle Road, Highway 200, and must secure all gates upon entering and exiting.

Hunting passes will be provided at the check-in stations after 5 p.m. Friday. These passes must be signed and placed on the vehicle’s dashboard. Hunters who do not have a signed hunting pass on their dashboard will be barred from hunting for 30 days.

All hunters must check in and out at one of the following hunter’s check-in stations: Kilohana, located on Saddle Road between mile markers 43 and 44, Puu Huluhulu, located at the intersection of Mauna Kea Access and Saddle roads near mile marker 28, or Puu Anahulu check-in station located in the vicinity of mile marker 14 on Highway 190. Check-out time is no later than 7:30 p.m. each day.

For more information, call the PTA Hunter’s Hotline at 969-3474; visit garrison.hawaii.army.mil/pta, and click on the “Hunting” tab; or refer to instructions on the hunting pass.

Native urchins help protect Oahu reefs

Another milestone was reached Thursday, as teams from the Anuenue Fisheries Research Center, a facility of the state’s Division of Aquatic Resources, planted the 200,000th juvenile sea urchin in Oahu’s Kaneohe Bay.

Over the past three years, the center has successfully spawned and raised collector urchins in captivity with the express purpose of releasing them in the bay as part of an ecosystem-based management plan and for environmental mitigation work. The combination of fast-growing seaweeds that smother patch reefs and the depletion of native sea urchin populations were rapidly altering the natural ecosystem balance in Kaneohe Bay.

“Now with our two-pronged approach; utilizing the ocean-going vacuum Super Sucker to remove seaweed from affected coral reefs, combined with the introduction of the native Hawaiian collector urchins, Tripneustes gratilla, we’re beginning to see the bay return to a more natural condition,” said David Cohen, DAR sea urchin hatchery manager.

The urchins act as underwater gardeners and help keep invasive seaweeds under control. This allows corals to grow and provide habitat for juvenile reef fish and other aquatic creatures like squid and octopus.

The Kaneohe community and volunteer groups have been instrumental in supporting this program. Other partners include groups from the University of Hawaii, The Nature Conservancy, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and numerous nonprofits.

Texas child sex assault fugitive found in Hawaii

HONOLULU — A man wanted on child sex assault charges in Texas has been found and arrested in Hawaii.

The U.S. Marshals Fugitive Task Force says 42-year-old Adrian Gamble was tracked down and arrested Thursday in Kapolei, Oahu.

Authorities say he is accused of having sexual contact in 2008 with a 9-year-old child he was caring for.

The Marshals Service says a grand jury arrest warrant was issued by the Galveston County District Attorney’s office in 2011 but he had already fled Texas.

He’s in Honolulu police custody, pending an extradition hearing back to Texas.

Polynesian Cultural Center to greet queen

HONOLULU — Tonga’s Queen Nanasipauu Tukuaho will receive an elaborate welcome on her first royal visit to Oahu.

The Polynesian Cultural Center will host a private ceremony to greet the queen on Friday. She’s visiting Oahu at the invitation of Hawaii’s Tongan community and alumni of Queen Salote College in Tonga.

The queen will be greeted with a special chant and by a hula kahiko from dancers at the center. Fijian warriors then will escort the queen by canoe to a welcome by managers at the center who represent different island nations.

Queen Tukuaho’s husband, King Tupou VI, inherited the throne of Tonga in 2012 after the death of his brother, King George Tupou V.

By local and state sources